Steven Tyler: ‘I’m very grateful for being sober’

Aerosmith founder addresses Drug Court

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler looks back to speak directly to the seven graduates of the 62nd Maui/Molokai Drug Court Program graduation in 2nd Circuit Court. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

WAILUKU — Although he was introduced as a singer, songwriter and founding member of the legendary rock band Aerosmith, Steven Tyler offered another description when he spoke to Maui Drug Court graduates Thursday.

“My name’s Steven,” he said. “I’m an alcoholic and a recovering drug addict.”

“My hats off to you,” he told the graduates. “You’re my heroes here today because you have come from somewhere that I lived myself. To come out through the wormhole like you’re doing today is a true beyond-belief miracle. I’m so proud of you, each and every one.”

Tyler, a Maui resident, wasn’t on the program but had asked to speak at the graduation, the 62nd for the program that offers criminal defendants intensive treatment and supervision as an alternative to incarceration.

Those who successfully completed the program had criminal charges dismissed or terms of probation ended early.

Some were surprised when Tyler showed up shortly before the ceremony began in the courtroom of 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza.

Tyler took a seat between Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu and 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill to join them and 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo, Cardoza and Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson in congratulating the seven graduates.

“I’m honored, so honored to be surrounded by such higher-ups — Judge Cardoza and everybody here who, back in my heyday, I would have been scared to death of,” Tyler said.

Tyler read a passage from a Daily Reflections book, which he said dates to 26 years ago when he entered an addiction treatment program.

He touched on his addiction struggles, including four stays in rehabilitation.

“I’ve got my reasons,” he said, referring to his addiction days.

“It was the thing to do back then and then it became a thing to do” after operations on his feet and knees, he said.

Drawing on his experiences, Tyler offered advice to the graduates.

“If you have to take any drugs, do not hold them yourselves,” he said.

“And if you’re in a 12-step program, keep going to meetings.

“You stop going to meetings, you’re going to use again. The way to share this program is with others at meetings. That’s what saved my life. So I want to pass that on to you guys.”

Tyler said he “lost so much” because of his addiction.

“It ruined my life,” he said. “It took away everything I loved and cherished.”

“The problem for me was I got high for so many years,” Tyler said. “After I did Madison Square Garden, I got high. That’s what I lived for. But how did I change it? By working a 12-step program.”

Tyler said he still goes to 12-step meetings and has two sponsors — one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast “’cause I don’t trust myself.”

“One of the most important things AA has given me, in addition to freedom from my drug addiction and booze, is the ability to take right action,” he said.

“They say if you stay sober, your wildest dreams will happen. You wind up being best friends with a judge,” said Tyler, who received a United Nations award for humanitarianism.

“I have a family that loves me, a girlfriend who loves me, all because I’m sober, all because of sobriety,” he said.

He said people often compliment him on a song he’s written.

“That’s nothing compared to being sober,” he said. “That’s nothing compared to having my kids love me.”

Tyler said he visited Maui in 1976 after writing “Walk This Way.”

“Now I live here,” he said. “Now I can say I’m kamaaina. My life is beautiful.”

“Even though your whole life you may have lived another way, magic is going to come to you,” he told the graduates. “I’ve got this life today because I go to meetings.”

It was the third time Tyler has spoken at a Maui Drug Court graduation.

Second Circuit Court Judge Richard Bissen, who is friends with Tyler, usually introduces him, said Les Maeda, clinical supervisor of the Maui/Moloka’i Drug Court program.

When Maeda asked Bissen for advice on how to introduce Tyler, he said the judge responded: “Just keep it simple and say he’s the most down-to-earth person you will ever meet and he’s a devoted family man.”

Tyler stayed after the ceremony to talk with graduates and pose for photos with them and their families.

“I’m very grateful for being sober,” he told the graduates. “I need coming here and talking to people. I need you for me. Because if I can’t give it away, I can’t keep what I got.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.